At last it seems that the gales have stopped and we can get on with working on the plot. Storm Gareth really was a pretty insipid name, it just doesn’t sound ferocious or consequential enough. Perhaps they should name storms after politicians – Storm Teresa, Storm Boris, Storm Jeremy, or Storm Jacob. All of them could cause a lot of damage, none of them were to be trusted, and don’t stand with your back to any of them.
Gardeners can become obsessed about weather, but this year has started with conditions that aren’t particularly helpful. It’s generally been a mild winter, but the February “heat wave” was not good for growing. I started my dahlia cuttings in February and it was a struggle to get them rooted in the propagator – it was just too hot. One day my thermometer in the polytunnel on the plot recorded a maximum of 47.6 degrees. And then March arrived with rain and gales, saturating the soil again and making starting outside on the plot impossible, or foolhardy. So cultivation has been restricted to propagators, windowsills, greenhouses, and polytunnels.
There is a YouTube channel called Steve’s Seaside Allotment. As an aside, my daughter, who is a Secondary School teacher, says that the profession of choice for children today is to be a YouTuber – whatever happened to train drivers, or scoring the winning goal in the Cup Final. Anyway Steve at his seaside allotment in Lytham St Anne’s is worth a watch. He grows a remarkable amount of crops throughout the year without using a large amount of heat. He has a large array of cold frames and cloches on his plots which produce an extraordinary level of vegetables. On our allotments sites very few plots use cold frames or cloches. They are something which were very common ages ago but just aren’t seen these days. Watch Steve’s channel and it could change the way we grow.
One of the reasons that cold frames and cloches aren’t used a lot is that they are very expensive to buy. Nothing much under £50 and all small and flimsy looking. Conversely, they are quite easy to make yourself using wood from pallets, polythene, and some MDPE piping. Maybe there’s a cottage industry out there for someone.
And another aside. We recently spent a few days in Kent, mainly walking, eating, and drinking – what else is there. One day we visited Margate – I was humming Down to Margate by the wonderful Chas & Dave all day – “we’ll have a pile of jellied eels by the cockle stall”, genius lyrics. Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize, nah – Chas & Dave any day – or maybe Leonard Cohen of course. Anyway, on the way we passed a massive collection of greenhouses all lights blazing. This amazing sight is Thanet Earth which, along with chillis and peppers, produces tomatoes every day of the year, 12 percent of the total tomatoes grown in the UK according to wiki. Funny old world.
So what is there to do on the plot? Firstly, clearing up. As you may have read from my previous ramblings, I am a great advocate for preparing the plots in the autumn. This week I cleared up my plots of any new weeds, rubbish etc. which had accumulated over winter, and it took just 30 minutes for each 5 rod plot. My biggest curse on Durley Field is sycamore seedlings – they are our number one weed. I’m sure I read somewhere that there was going to be a ban on planting sycamores in the future – I’d support that. Unfortunately, the two trees on Durley belong to the Council, and I’m not sure if they would like us chopping them down or poisoning them.
Outside on the plot we can plant broad bean plants, onion sets, garlic bulbs, and shallots. All these are available from the Shop. Last weekend, there were some very nice broad bean plants available for sale grown by two of our tenants – at very a reasonable price. Potatoes are also still available and ready for planting in the next few weeks.
Do use the shop; all the prices are very competitive – never knowingly undersold, as someone once said. The shop is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 9am to midday.
Under cloches we can be planting out lettuce and brassica plants. If you do have a greenhouse or a polytunnel a number of vegetables can be sown. In the last few weeks I’ve sown carrots, turnips, radishes, salad leaves, and corn salad – all of these are in boxes of one sort or another and growing away. If the weather holds I’ll transfer the boxes to outside or the cold frame. I’ve also sown peas in a 20 litre pot to grow up canes.
On the windowsills at home beans, courgettes spring onions, lettuce, and beetroot have been sown. And in the propagator cucumbers have germinated, but melon are proving reluctant to show their face.
Outside on the plot the onion sets, and broad beans, both of which I started in modules have all been planted out.
It’s a very busy period – over the next few weeks more and more will be planted out, but I think I’ll avoid sowing outside for a good few weeks yet, even parsnips I think I’ll leave to early May.
Keep on plotting.